Doc­tor in In­dian PPE row bun­dled off to men­tal unit

Metro (UK) - - NEWS - By JOEL TAY­LOR

A DOC­TOR who was sus­pended af­ter rais­ing con­cerns about In­dia’s short­age of face masks has been ar­rested and de­tained at a psy­chi­atric hospi­tal.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a hospi­tal anaes­thetist with 20 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence, was shown be­ing ar­rested by po­lice in a series of dra­matic videos.

The im­ages, which have been shared widely on so­cial me­dia and What­sApp, cap­ture a chain of events on Satur­day in the south­ern city of Visakha­p­at­nam, where Dr Rao lives and works.

He is first seen shirt­less, sit­ting in­side his car by the side of the road, and scream­ing at po­lice.

In an­other video, he is ly­ing on the road with his hands tied be­hind his back as a con­sta­ble hits him with a ba­ton. Po­lice said the of­fi­cer has been sus­pended and an in­ves­ti­ga­tion will be held, the BBC re­ported.

In the fi­nal video, of­fi­cers are seen bundling the doc­tor into an auto rick­shaw in front of be­wil­dered on­look­ers.

Be­fore he was taken away, Dr Rao told lo­cal jour­nal­ists who had gath­ered that he had been stopped and forced out of the car by the po­lice­men.

‘They snatched my phone and wal­let. They hit me,’ he said.

So­cial me­dia users and op­po­si­tion par­ties con­demned the state gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of the sit­u­a­tion and ac­cused the po­lice of ex­ces­sive force.

Dr Rao made na­tional head­lines in April af­ter re­veal­ing that doc­tors were not be­ing given ad­e­quate pro­tec­tive gowns and masks to treat Covid-19 pa­tients.

‘We are told to use the same mask for 15 days be­fore ask­ing for a fresh mask. How can we treat pa­tients risk­ing our lives?’ he asked tele­vi­sion re­porters. The gov­ern­ment or­dered an in­quiry-but also sus­pended Dr Rao. Of­fi­cials claimed that by go­ing pub­lic in­stead of fil­ing a for­mal com­plaint, he had dam­aged the morale of health care work­ers. Days later, Dr Rao re­leased a video in which he apol­o­gised. The gov­ern­ment did not re­spond.

Dr Rao’s fam­ily al­lege that he has been ha­rassed since speak­ing out. His mother, Kaveri Rao, told BBC Tel­ugu that he had no men­tal health is­sues. ‘He is a re­puted doc­tor,’ she said. ‘But he has been fac­ing abuse since the day he raised those con­cerns.’ The news fol­lows re­ports of In­dian doc­tors fac­ing a back­lash af­ter speak­ing out about short­ages of PPE or lack of prepa­ra­tion in hos­pi­tals.


Shirt­less: Dr Sudhakar Rao is held down and his hands are tied by po­lice. The medic had spo­ken out about lack of face masks in hos­pi­tals

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